“None of this really matters,” one character says, and it’s hard not to feel as if she is referring to the novel itself.

THE MARTIN CHRONICLES

A coming-of-age novel, set in New York in the 1980s, that unfolds as a series of episodes.

Fried’s first book does not break new territory so much as it revisits familiar ground. The novel revolves around Martin Kelso, 11 as the story opens and 17 when it comes to a close. During those six years, he moves from sixth grade at a boys school that has gone coed to the threshold of college. The journey is insulated by Manhattan privilege, but there is, as there must be, unanticipated bumpiness. “For my friend Kevin Johnson’s thirteenth birthday,” Fried opens one chapter, “his father ordered pizzas and a case of Coke, and then handed out Playboy magazines.” Later, Martin experiences a first kiss with his cousin Evie, four years his senior, who is the novel’s agent of chaos, a character who trails disruption in her wake. “This was the Evie I remembered—an emotional spinning top,” Martin reflects. “I never knew quite where she would come to rest.” That question, and Evie’s continued machinations, ebb and flow throughout the book. It’s an interesting strategy, a way to inject more risk into the narrative, but in the end, it backfires a little bit. This is because Evie is a more compelling character than her cousin, who seems most alive when she is around. Without her, Martin learns to run the elevator in his apartment building during an operators’ strike and almost gets arrested after buying beer. He is used by a young woman looking to get back at her ex-boyfriend. He hangs out with his friends. None of it sticks, however, or more accurately, none of it comes fully to life. The scenes resound with a kind of nodding recognition, charged less from within than by the recollections of its readers, the memories of adolescence they provoke. Only when Fried returns to Evie and her troubles does the book re-engage again.

“None of this really matters,” one character says, and it’s hard not to feel as if she is referring to the novel itself.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-2983-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS

This Afghan-American author follows his debut (The Kite Runner, 2003) with a fine risk-taking novel about two victimized but courageous Afghan women.

Mariam is a bastard. Her mother was a housekeeper for a rich businessman in Herat, Afghanistan, until he impregnated and banished her. Mariam’s childhood ended abruptly when her mother hanged herself. Her father then married off the 15-year-old to Rasheed, a 40ish shoemaker in Kabul, hundreds of miles away. Rasheed is a deeply conventional man who insists that Mariam wear a burqa, though many women are going uncovered (it’s 1974). Mariam lives in fear of him, especially after numerous miscarriages. In 1987, the story switches to a neighbor, nine-year-old Laila, her playmate Tariq and her parents. It’s the eighth year of Soviet occupation—bad for the nation, but good for women, who are granted unprecedented freedoms. Kabul’s true suffering begins in 1992. The Soviets have gone, and rival warlords are tearing the city apart. Before he leaves for Pakistan, Tariq and Laila make love; soon after, her parents are killed by a rocket. The two storylines merge when Rasheed and Mariam shelter the solitary Laila. Rasheed has his own agenda; the 14-year-old will become his second wife, over Mariam’s objections, and give him an heir, but to his disgust Laila has a daughter, Aziza; in time, he’ll realize Tariq is the father. The heart of the novel is the gradual bonding between the girl-mother and the much older woman. Rasheed grows increasingly hostile, even frenzied, after an escape by the women is foiled. Relief comes when Laila gives birth to a boy, but it’s short-lived. The Taliban are in control; women must stay home; Rasheed loses his business; they have no food; Aziza is sent to an orphanage. The dramatic final section includes a murder and an execution. Despite all the pain and heartbreak, the novel is never depressing; Hosseini barrels through each grim development unflinchingly, seeking illumination.

Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-950-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more